WE wish it to be understood that we are in entire sympathy with the desire which many excellent people feel, in this country, for the inculcating of a greater degree of reference in the minds of the young.
If there is one feature more conspicuous than another in the lives of the youth in this land, it is their fast-growing irreverence for any power and authority higher than themselves.
It is perfectly proper that the situation should be viewed by good people with genuine alarm. The spirit of irreverence is essentially the spirit of lawlessness. It is certain that it bodes no good, but great evil, to the future welfare of society and the prosperity of the nation.
Something ought to be done, and that as speedily as possible, to check the growth of this baneful feature of our modern civilization; which is, indeed, becoming so widespread a feature of that civilization as to constitute a sign of the times. Everything should be done to this end that can be done by all lovers of good government. And unquestionably there is much that might be done by judicious planning and effort.
Our only want of sympathy in all that relates to this matter is with the misconceived—though doubtless well-meant—efforts that are being made to remedy the situation by people whose views are not broad enough to take in the full scope of what it demands. Such efforts do not get down to the root of the difficulty, and by their superficial work only aggravate the evil which they are meant to cure.
Such, for instance, is the effort which finds expression in the “patriotic salute” innovation in some of the public schools, which is noticed at length on another page. For it is not difficult to believe that a desire to inculcate reverence in the minds of the youthful pupils of the public schools is the real motive from which this innovation has sprung. We are heartily in sympathy with the motive; but as we have pointed out elsewhere, we are most heartily opposed to the means through which it is sought to be carried into effect.
The trouble is not one which lies with the public school system of education. It is not one which any change in that system can eradicate. It is an evil which lies primarily at the doors of parents. Parents have not taught their children to be reverent toward the things which can of right command their reverence. They have not conducted themselves in a manner to command the reverence of their children; and the latter have grown up to acquire and use such expressions as “the governor” and “the old man,” in the place of “father.” There can be no real and permanent remedy for the evil until parents take up this long-neglected duty. The influence of the parent upon the child is one which cannot be ignored, and which will produce its effect for good or ill upon the character in spite of any system of public education that can be devised.
The spirit of reverence is essentially the spirit of religion. As this spirit has become lost out of the hearts of the people, in the great spiritual declension of these times, the natural result has been the loss of the reverential spirit by those who should be teachers of reverence to the rising generation.
We are in the great spiritual declension of “the last days,“—of the time when, because of abounding iniquity, the love of many should wax cold. See Matthew 24:12, 13; 2 Timothy 3:1-4. Without religion, there cannot be reverence; and without Christianity, there cannot be reverence for that to which reverence rightfully belongs.
Christianity, and that alone, will reach the root of the difficulty. The wider diffusion of Christianity is the pressing need of the hour. And there is but one way for this diffusion to be accomplished, and that is by faith in the Word of God.
We are also heartily in sympathy with the desire to foster the sentiment of true patriotism in the minds and hearts of the people. But what is patriotism? Is it something which makes people belligerent,—which fills them with the idea that their country can whip any other country on the earth, and with a desire to demonstrate their ability in this line at the earliest opportunity? Is it an altogether selfish sentiment, which ignores right and justice in the endeavor to gain some advantage for the object on which it is bestowed? If it is, then we have no wish to see it fostered; for there is selfishness  enough, and much more than enough, in the world at the present time.
But this is not patriotism in its true sense. There is a sentiment which leads men to seek the welfare of their fellows, regardless of condition, belief, or color, and even of nationality. The Declaration of Independence sounded forth the words of freedom for all the world. And under the system of government for which it stood, the oppressed of all nations found a haven of refuge. Under the operation of the principles of liberty which it enunciates, there arose in a single country one of the greatest nations upon the globe. Cannot the nation continue to prosper under the inculcation of these same principles? Is it not in them that the truest patriotism is to be found?
Let us have a patriotism which reaches out beyond the boundaries of the American continent, even to the afflicted people of other lands; not to seek to kill as many of them as our armaments will enable us to do, nor to cripple the interests of other countries that those of our own may be enhanced; but one which seeks to further the welfare of a sorrow-laden humanity in all lands: and which stands in defense of the God-given rights and liberties of the people, whether at home or abroad.